Boudin launches pretrial diversion program for parents of minor children

New DA seeks to keep families together by implementing state law in San Francisco

Some parents accused of crimes in San Francisco could soon have their cases dismissed through a new pretrial diversion program that District Attorney Chesa Boudin is implementing in The City as one of his first acts in office.

Boudin announced Tuesday that his office is launching the Primary Caregiver Diversion Program under Senate Bill 394 from state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.

Through the new program, certain defendants could have their cases dropped and records sealed if they receive services and complete parenting or other rehabilitative classes for at least six months.

Defendants will be eligible only if they are the primary caregiver of a child under the age of 18 and are charged with a misdemeanor or non-violent, non-serious felony.

Parents who committed crimes against their own children or are considered by the court a risk to public safety are not eligible to participate in the program.

The program is part of Boudin’s broader mission of transitioning The City’s criminal justice system from punitive measures toward more restorative practices.

Boudin launched the program to prevent parents from being separated from their children and to end the generational cycle of incarceration.

“This is about taking responsibility, protecting the sanctity of the family, and ensuring innocent children are not condemned to repeat the mistakes of their parents,” Boudin said in a statement.

The legislation hits close to home for Boudin, whose parents were sent to prison in connection with the deaths of two police officers and a security guard when he was a toddler.

“I grew up visiting my parents behind bars,” Boudin said. “I know the kind of trauma the sudden loss of a parent can have on a child and the kind of resources that are needed to make that child whole again.”

Family separations disproportionately impact communities of color, according to the District Attorney’s Office. The office said that 70 percent of children with incarcerated parents are black or Latino.

Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents the Tenderloin and South of Market, tweeted out his support for the program Tuesday.

“Separating parents from children has devastating impacts on mental, social, emotional well being of children, and we should make every effort to keep families together wherever possible,” he said.

mgorelick@sfexaminer.com

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